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How to Prepare and Evacuate Safely During a Disaster

Disaster Response Expert Monica Sanders shares her preparedness tips and considerations to keep in mind when developing a disaster response plan for you and your loved ones’ needs.

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By Monica Sanders

Preparing for disaster season can be nerve-racking, even more so depending on where you live — hurricane, wildfire-prone areas and flood zones all require having a plan in place as early as possible.

Emergency Alerts:

  • Update your weather and/or local news app.
  • Sign up for emergency alerts from your town, employer or school. That way you can get text messages or alerts based on any potential hazard in your area.
  • Sign up for text or email alerts from your power company to stay up to date about hazards or outages.
  • Get a solar or battery powered radio to keep up to date in conditions.

Overall Preparedness:

  • Make sure your “go-kit” or shelter-in-place kit is ready, including extra doses of critical medication on-hand if sheltering-in-place or evacuating.
  • Make an evacuation plan and decide on a meeting place if you’re coordinating departures in multiple groups.
  • Photograph important documents, including identification, birth records and deeds, and store them on your phone’s cloud in addition to putting the originals in a fireproof box. These are most needed for insurance and federal assistance after a big event. Not having this information is a significant block to receiving immediate assistance.
  • Always have emergency cash in case of power outages, since there could be ATM and electronic payment outages.
  • It’s a good idea to keep some masks and disinfecting products, like Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes, on hand as you travel, and if you are in a wildfire prone region, the KN95 is a good filtration mask in heavily smoky areas.
  • Whether you evacuate or shelter in place, have games, books and other entertainment on hand to keep children entertained and everyone’s spirits up.


  • When under a hurricane evacuation order, I recommend traveling at least 250 miles away from the path of a major storm. This is especially true if you are in a low-lying or disaster-prone area on the coast.
  • Make sure you have clothing suitable for weather conditions. Take bedding and/or sleeping bags in case you need extra in a shelter or hotel.
  • If you have a pet, pre-check for “pet friendly” shelters and hotels.
  • Check shelter and food service locations for availability and any restrictions ahead of time, and the same is true for hotels. Always know where you are going.
  • Keep a paper or offline version map in your vehicle in case cell towers/GPS are down.

When sheltering in place:

  • Make sure phones and devices are charged and charge up power banks. I also keep a solar charged power bank on hand.
  • Be sure to reinforce doors and windows to make them more resistant to potential damage.
  • Be sure to have enough non-perishable food items and water for up to three days. You can also use Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach for emergency disinfection of water to make sure it’s safe to drink.


  • Stay in touch with family and other emergency contacts about how, when and by what means you are evacuating.
  • Save the same emergency contact list on all family/group members’ phones.
  • Let your work supervisor know where you are going and check in with them once you arrive.
  • If you have access to social media, take advantage of check-ins to let people know how and where you are as well as how loved ones are doing. Do not take “disaster photos” for social media or go into potentially dangerous areas.


  • If you are going to fly, purchase your ticket and any other preflight needs like pre-check and CLEAR before you get to the airport.
  • If you are driving, ensure you have a full tank of gas, your “go kit,” including bottled water, non-perishable snacks and food, and medications, and any of your pet’s needs.
  • If you have to use public transportation, make sure you have a pre-planned route and are aware of any limitations in the distance that you can travel. Pre-purchase fare cards before a big event.